Tag Archives: Long Beach

Riot Act

29 Apr

This weekend I’ve been watching many of the documentaries about the LA riots in 1992. I remember the riots, we watched everything unfold on the afternoon news programs and in our government class at school the next day. I was a newly minted adult having just turned 18 the month before and the only thing I really had my mind on was deciding which school I was headed off to on the other side of summer.

Geographically we weren’t that far away from where this was all happening. Pico Rivera was just suburban enough to make this all look like something that was happening somewhere else but heading up to the hills around town after school you could see the smoke off in the distance and there was some attempted looting a few days in to the unrest at the Town Center in Montebello. We were aware of the videotaped beating and the trial, discussed this in class but never really did a deep dive on racial tensions. We had entire sections on Civil Rights era action in the 1960’s but weren’t really taught that this was still such a prevalent problem. The focus at the time all seemed to be on the gang wars and the drug epidemic.

My father worked as a Sheriff most of my life, he spent a lot of that time working in South Central. Stationed primarily in Lynwood, Compton, Watts and Willowbrook he left us each morning to try his best to keep peace and make it home to his kids each night. He wouldn’t tell us much about his days on patrol, we were fed tidbits when he would come home with a used car he had spotted while on duty or our dog Lynn a beagle he said he found wandering across Imperial Highway. When the riot happened Dad was the on campus officer for Lynwood High School. We never thought to ask why a high school needed a full time armed Sheriff on site, had we asked we are sure he never would have told us. When we saw what was starting to happen we knew not to expect Dad to be home that night. I don’t remember exactly when he came home, I do remember him calling us to make sure we were ok. My brother was off at UCSB so it was just my sister and I left at the house but we had family just on the other corner and we were quite capable teenagers.

As an adult looking back at this footage it still seems like it was something that didn’t happen in my beloved Los Angeles. But it did happen, months later when we were making our way through the streets to drop me off at the UCLA dorms we passed through areas that had boarded up burnt out buildings, some were never rebuilt and even now driving through Compton (right next door to me now!) there are entire sections of the city that never recovered. Even if the shopping centers didn’t burn they were just frozen in time, the signs look like they’re from the 80’s and there are very few national chains. There are some shiny new developments though, new centers and parks that have sprung up and a train that connects the area to downtown where you can get to the Westside or in to the Valley. There’s still so much more progress to be made though – the same issues that brought about the unrest in 92 are still happening today. With cameras in our pockets able to capture and quickly spread injustices maybe all of these protests are helping to vent this anger so it doesn’t boil over in this city.

In a way I’m glad I was a bit sheltered from what was really going on. It wasn’t bad where my only concern was which Smiths shirt I was going to wear the next day to school or when Middle Earth the long gone record store in Downey was going to get the latest issue of the NME in stock.

Bits of Vespa in my purse

1 Apr

Weather in Long Beach has been beautiful the last few days. The space heaters are tucked away for the rest of the year and jackets are being swapped out for lightweight hoodies. Fantastic weather means I change my commute and leave the Mini at home and head out on two wheels.  My drive to work is pretty short and traffic is very light so it’s a very easy ride in.  I’ve been on two wheels for nearly 30 years now and have owned a lot of different bikes but the one I have now is oh so special. A Vespa Primavera 70th anniversary edition in Azzurro, yes it’s just as fancy as it sounds. I bought this scooter in the fall and rode it all the way home from Sherman Oaks loving every minute of it. When I go out riding I’m often stopped by people with one of two questions – “how much does it cost?” or “aren’t you scared to drive around here?”. I generally won’t answer the first question because I don’t want to get pushed off the scooter and have it stolen from underneath me. The second I tell them that having an accident on one of these things is bound to happen and it’s a lot easier to just get on with things once you accept that.

I’ve been fortunate not to have an incident for 20 years, the roads on my way to UCLA were very big and me and that Honda Elite 80 met many a pavement on Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards. Nothing was every too serious and walked away unscratched from most of those. Yesterday I stopped after an appointment to grab a lunch to take back to the office. The row of restaurants close by has an impossibly small parking lot and spots are very hard to come by which makes it an ideal place to swing by on the Vespa as it can just park by the dumpsters outside of Starbucks for a few minutes. I was headed to that spot when the car in front of me stopped. I saw a car a few spaces up start to back out and just sat on the scoot to let this all happen. The car in front of me spotted a better spot right next to them and decided as it was 20 feet closer to the restaurant to back up and grab that one instead. Of course they backed up without looking. When I’m stopped at an intersection waiting for a light to turn my biggest fear is someone not seeing me and plowing in to me smashing me in to the car in front of me or in to the intersection. When waiting I’ll try to pump my brake handle to make a little red flashing light for a little more visual awareness. So here I am in a parking lot watching this Kia just coming for me in reverse. I honked my horn, yelled, and tried to move the scooter back but she didn’t hear any of this and collided in to the front of Miles Kane (the Vespa). The driver didn’t stop once she connected me and kept going, pushing me back a few feet. I was standing by now ready to jump away from the bike if she kept pushing back and pulled it under the car. It was a terrifying moment but one we all were able to walk away from, both vehicles scarred, my body aching and head pounding from the incident even after a good night’s sleep.

Miles is still roadworthy just looking a bit battered, it’s going to cost quite a bit to get him back in to shape but that’s what insurance is for. Not sure how long it’s going to be for me to get back to normal but I know that day will also come. Today I made a point to get out back on the mean streets of the 562 and run all my errands on the Vespa rather than the Mini. Breezing around the traffic circle doing 40 it’s hard to see the bits missing from Miles and the cracks on the front fender, drivers just see a woman in a pink glitter helmet riding past on a beautiful bike. It wasn’t a very busy weekend around town with most of the action happening closer to the water for the Grand Prix the traffic was particularly light. Miles and I just had to get out there and show everyone this wasn’t the first accident (well it was for him), it won’t be the last but that’s not going to keep me off the road.

Miles 0401

57,863 Miles

28 Feb

Last week I climbed in to my Mini and started it up to have the cold weather warning alert pop on to the controls along with the mileage 57,863. I sat there staring at the numbers for a minute thinking of everything that’s happened during those miles. I bought the Mini while working at a company that was based in Encino and had me making my longest commute of my working life. Within a few months that company would start to implode upon itself with the owners relapsing in to their addictions and I made the decision to walk away grabbing my last paycheck not knowing what would happen to me next.  I came home that day and took a look around at my apartment and wondered how long I would be able to stay there as I wouldn’t be entitled to unemployment.  I had a vague promise of a temporary job with Virgin Galactic on a data entry project that would help keep me going until I found permanent work. It was a chance to work with some old colleagues and my way in to a company I had wanted to be a part of for nearly a decade. Having spent the bulk of my working life with another Virgin company, oddly enough starting off as a data entry clerk I was familiar with the brand and always regretted walking away before. On my way to Mojave for my first day orientation I was hoping with each passing mile that it wouldn’t be my only trip. I must have done an amazing job on that data entry because I’m still with them now and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Those miles include so many trips to Mojave but they also have a lot of adventures packed in there. Trips to Indio for Coachella, Las Vegas with friends, that one weekend we drove to San Francisco then down to San Diego in the span of three days chasing great music. Early morning drives over the canyon to the Kings Head to watch City play and now to the Rec Room from Long Beach where I now live.  The supporters club that was started by a few stray fans has now grown to this giant loud group and I couldn’t be prouder of it.

Sitting outside that gas station in Mojave with the winds whipping around me as I was tucked safely inside the car staring at that number I felt content. The next morning I would stand out on the edge of a runway and watch a beautiful spaceship take another test flight. My life isn’t perfect by any means but it’s pretty good at the moment and I’m looking forward to the next 60,000 miles.